The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

Book - 1997
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II. In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat.  Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.  As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria. Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace,The Wind-Up Bird Chronicleis a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, c1997
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780679446699
Characteristics: 611 p. ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jul 30, 2019

Simple, yet beautiful writing. Felt long towards the end without a huge plot payoff.

May 04, 2019

Haruki Murakami is the master of static characters with unresolved internal conflicts. Perhaps, the realistic depiction of how problems are chronic is why I’m so fond of his work. The character’s journey doesn’t feel rushed nor awkwardly forced into a six-stage plot structure. The climax can ripple and introduce other climaxes. Falling action can be non-existent, leading to more complicated journeys. Murakami’s characters can be simply put as over-thinkers who spend all their time pondering rather than doing anything. Hence, that prompts inpatient book critics to bomb the reviews with words like “mundane,” “boring,” and “plot-less.” Frankly, if these egotistical critics can just sit down and enjoy the slow and serene flow of the characters’ thoughts, they can appreciate the beauty of human nature and life.

May Kasahara's obsession with death is somewhat profound and intriguing. While Toru is voluntary down in a dried-up well to do some thinking, May hides the rope ladder that can get Toru out of the well. The fact his life depends on her excites her obsession with death. She asks, “If people lived forever - if they never got older - if they could just go on living in this world, never dying, always health - do you think they’d bother to think hard about things, the way we’re doing now? (Murakami, 258)” Her seemingly naive words strike me as an answer to my predicament. “If there were no such things as death, that complicated thoughts - philosophy, psychology, logic, religion, religion - would never come into this world (258).”

Apr 11, 2019

Murakami reliably enchants me on every page of every book. This was my first read of his. I love the warmth and deeply personal details of the thoughts and actions and moods of his characters, perhaps especially the young ones working out their relationships. The sort of magical realism serves to draw me into the story's reality and engage my mind and heart with the humanity Murakami presents to the reader. I keep reading him and have yet to be disappointed.

May 22, 2018

Although there were interesting anecdotes that held my attention, I started skimming over pages and pages of trivial, mind-numbing details, reading just the first sentence of each paragraph until something caught my attention again.

The only thing that kept me going to the end was the anticipation of a big payoff, which the glowing reviews seemed to offer. No such luck. Hero finally "battles" some nebulous (unexplained) force to rescue his beloved wife. The end. The intriguing stories of all the auxiliary characters were by far more interesting than anything that happened to our passive "hero." I was hoping for a central thread that tied all of those various stories together, but never found one.

I would say, if you were satisfied with the ending of the TV series "Lost," then you might enjoy reading about a lot of crazy stuff that ultimates goes nowhere.

May 18, 2018

I was very disappointed by this. Like a lot of Murakami’s work, it’s weird and surrealistic; but it’s also a bit lurid and trashy, full of overwrought similes (“While I was ogling the garden, the pigeon on the aerial… looked like a clerk stamping numbers on a stack of bills, one after another”) and characters who tell their entire life-story for no reason while the narrator does nothing in the face of an unfolding tragedy (why doesn't he call the police when he suspects foul play?). I continued reading only because I wanted to find out how it ended. The story does fall together somewhat around the middle, but by then I'd pretty much given up on anything really interesting happening. Although it takes place in the same strange dream-world as Murakami's other works that I've read (and shares a lot of their elements); I generally found it just straining too hard. If you're reading Murakami for the first time, try a different book.

Apr 12, 2017

In the words of one of his characters, Murakami here is "engaged in a serious search for the meaning of his own existence." The dreamlike imagery and inconsistent grounding in basic reality is very mysterious, challenging, and even a bit unsatisfying. Yet, as with the stylized gestural language of Noh Theater, or the unstated inferences and juxtapositions of Haiku, Murakami's text will move you in unexpected and subterranean ways, if you allow. A fellow reader tells me images from this book still come vividly back to him years afterwards...

Feb 06, 2017

Believe the hype! This was the first Murakami book I have read, and I am converted as a fan. One of the best books I have read in the last year - Murakami is clearly talented and prolific for good reason. So glad I finally ponied up for this one.

Sep 08, 2016

Haruki Murakami is one of, if not the most highly regarded novelist in Japan for a reason: his grasp on magical reality is unparalleled. The story of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle follows a man named Toru Okada who searches for his wife’s missing cat, and along the way meets some interesting characters. The plot of the story really isn’t much to focus on when reading this book (or rather, the three books in this volume) – the feeling, and meaning behind the words Murakami writes are breathtaking to say the least. It is a novel about a man, a cat, his wife, the buried secrets of WWII in Manchuria, and what it means to love, die, hate, and find reason to be alive. - @FalcoLombardi of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

PimaLib_JudyM Jun 03, 2016

There was a lot of head scratching in my book group about this particular book. It was dreamlike, and I was never really certain what was real. That was actually not a bad thing as I found myself pondering the meaning and symbolism for many days after reading it. That being said, as a heads up, it is pretty graphically violent at times, and I could have lived without some of the description. Despite that, I found it the most intriguing book I read last year.

Apr 26, 2016

Third favorite Murakami book, really enjoyed it all the way through.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Jun 28, 2015

Pnpclear thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Quote
Feb 11, 2015

It was not one of those strong, impulsive feelings that can hit two people like an electric shock when they first meet, but something quieter and gentler, like two tiny lights traveling in tandem through a vast darkness and drawing imperceptibly closer to each other as they go. As our meetings grew more frequent, I felt not so much that I had met someone new as that I had chanced upon a dear old friend. p.223


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MARINet

To Top